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النشر الإلكتروني

CHAP. XXIII.

The" blessed Jesus accepts the Pharisee's Invitation a third tinie.—-Delivers divers Parables fepresehting the Requisites for Admittance into the Kingdont of God.—' The care of the Redeemer for every one of his Pedple.~—The teception of a penitent Sirttief; and the Punishment of mis-> using the Benefits of the Gospel.

OUR Saviour, having finished fhfe awful exclamation and' prediction, was in*vited by one of the pharisees to his house. Though he knew that his invitation arose not from a generous motive, yet as" lie never" shunned any opportunity of doing goOd!, even to his most implacable enemies., he accepted it. At his entering the pharisee's house, they placed before him a man that had a dropsy, doubtless with an intention to accuse him for healing on the sabbathday; being persuaded that he would'work a miracle in favour of so melancholy an Object. Jesus who knew the secret thoughts of their hearts, asked the lawyers and pharisees, whether it was "lawful to heal on the sabbath-day?" But they refusing to give any answer to the question, Jesus laid his hand on the deceased person, and immediately his complexion returned, his body was reduced to its ordinary dimension, and his former health and strength renewed in an instant. So surprising a miracle might surely have convinced the pharisees, that the Author must have been endued with power from on high; but instead of being persuaded that he was a person sent from God, and laboured only for the benefit of the children of meu, they were contriving how they might turn this miracle to his disadvantage. Oar Lord, however soon disconcerted their projects, by proving that according to their own avowed practice, he had done nothing but what was truly lawful. "Which of you, (said he) shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath-day?".

If a misfortune happens to one of your beasts, you make no scruple of assisting it on the sabbath, though the action may be attended with considerable labour: and surely I may relieve a descendant of Abraham, when nothing more is requisite than touching him with my hand. This argument was conclusive and so plain, that the grossest stupidity must feel its force, and the most virulent malice could not contradict it.

As the entertainment approached, our blessed Saviour had an opportunity of observing the pride of the pharisees, and remarking what an anxiety each of them expressed to obtain the must honourable place at the table. Nor did he let their ridiculous behaviour pass without a proper animadversion ;' in which he observed, tnat pride generally exposes a person to many affronts, and that humility is the surest method of gaining respect. .""When thou art bidden (said he) of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him, come and say to thee, Give this man place: and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shah thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.—For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Lukexiv. 8, <&c.

Having thus addressed the guest in general, he turned him to the master of the house, and said to him, "When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours: lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, rail the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind." Lukexiv. 12, 13. Be very careful not to limit thy hospitality to the rich, but let the poor also partake of thy bounty, *< And thou slialt be blessed ; for they cannot recompence thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of thejust." Luke xiv. 1.1.

One of the pharisees, ravished 'with the delightful prospect of the happiness good men enjoyed in the heavenly Canaan, cried out, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread.in (he kingdom of God.'' Blessed is he, who being admitted into the happy regions of Paradise, shall enjoy theconversationof the inhabitants of those heavenly countries; as those spiritual repasts must regale and invigorate his mind beyond expression. In answer to which, our blessed Saviour delivered the parable of the marriage supper, representing by the invitation of the guests, the doetrine of the gospel, and the neglect of those beneficent invitations to the great feast of heaven, should meet with among the Jews! foretelling, that though it was attended withevery inviting circumstance, they would disdainfully reject it, and prefer the pleasures of a temporal existence to those of an eternal state: while the Gentiles, with the greatest chearfulness, would embrace the beneficent offer, and thereby be prepared to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the happy mansions of the kingdom of heaven. But as this parable was afterwards spoken by our blessed Saviour in the temple, we shall defer our observations on it, till we come to the history where it was again delivered.

When Jesus departed thepharisee's house, great multitudes of people thronged to him, to hear his doctrine: but mistook the true intention of it, expecting he was going to establish the Messiah's throne in Jerusalem, and render all the nations of the world tributary to his power. The benevolent Jesus, therefore, took this opportunity to undeceive them, and to declare, in the plainest terms, that his kingdom was not of this world; and consequently that those who expected, by following him, to obtain

temporal advantages, would find themselves wretchedly mistaken; as, on the contrary, his disciples must expect to be persecuted from city to city, and hated of all men for his name's sake: though it was requisite for those who would be his true followers, to prefer his service to the riches, grandeur, and pleasure of the world; and to shew, by their conduct, that they had much less respect and value for the dearest objects of their affections, than for him. "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, arid sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." Luke xiv. 26, 27.

And in order to induce them to weigh this doctrine attentively in their minds, he elucidated it with two apposite cases, that of an unthinking builder, and that of a rash warrior. The former was obliged to leave his structure unfinished, because he had foolishly begun the building before he had computed the cost; and the latter reduced to the dilemma of being ingloriously defeated, or meanly suing for peace, previous to the battle, having rashly declared war before he had considered the strength of his own arid his enemy's army, "So likewise whosoever he be of you (added Jesus) that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.'' Luke xiv. 33.

The publicans and sinners, roused by the alarming doctrine of our Lord, listened to it attentively. This opportunity was readily embraced by the great Redeemer of mankind, who not only condescended to preach to them the happy tidings of eternal life, but even accompanied them to their own houses; that, if possible, the seeds of the gospel might take root in their hearts. But this condescension of the meek and humble Jesus, was considered by the haughty pharisees, as an action too mean for the character of a prophet. They murmured,

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and were highly displeased at a condescension which ought to have given them the greatest joy. But Jesus soon shewed them their mistake, by repeating to them the parables of the lost sheep and piece of money. Intimating thereby, the great care all prophets and pastors ought to take ofthose committed to their care, and the obligation they lay under of sea rchingdiligently forevery wandering sinner, whose conversion is a grateful offering to the Almighty. "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over one turner that repeuteth." Luke xv. 10.

To illustrate this doctrine still farther, and shew to the greatest sinner the willingness of God to receive him into hisgraceand favour, if convinced of his unworthy and lost condition of himself, he imploring forgiveness through the merits of Jesus Christ, and the renewal of his heart by the efficacious influences of his spirit, he delivered the expressive parable of the prodigal son. =•

A certain man had two sons, the younger of whom, not content to live in his father's house, safe under his protection, and happy under his eye, desired his father to give him the portion ef goods which fell to bis share. The indulgent father did not hesitate to grant his request; but the ungrateful son had no sooner obtained what he asked of his parent, than he left the presence and neighbourhood of so kind a father, and retired into a far country, where he had an opportunity of indulging, without restraint, his wicked inclinations ; and there he wasted his substance in riotous living. Having thus consumed the portion given him by his indulgent parent, he began to feel the miseries of want, and to add to his misfortunes, a terrible famine arose in that land ; so that he soon became acquainted with the sharp stings of hunger. In this distressed condition, he joined himself to a citizen of that country, willing to try every expedient, rather than return to his kind, his merciful father, and humbly confess his faults. His master, from B just contempt of No. 10.

his former prodigality, employed him in the meanest and most contemptible offices; he sent him into his field to feed swine. Behold, here, ye sons of extravagance/ a change indeed! Behold this thoughtless prodigal, reduced at once from a life of voluptuousness and gaiety* a life of plea* sure and excess, to a life of the most abject slavery, a life of penury and want J .Nay, so great was his hunger, so prodigious his distress, that he would even have,been ©on* tented, in this miserable state, to have satisfied the cravings of hunger with the husks eaten by the swine; but no man believed him, no man shewed the least compassion for him; so that the very swine were in a better condition than this miserable prodigal!

Thus miserably reduced, he was brought to himself: he had hitherto been in a state of utter forgetfulness; but now began to reflect on his happy condition, while he continued with his father, before he had deviated from the paths of virtue, and to compare it with his present deplorable condition. "How many hired servants of my father, (said he to himself) have bread enough, afnd to spare, and I perish with hunger?" I will therefore, undeserving as I am, have recourse to his mercy and favour. "I will. arise and goto my Father," for such he is still, and I, though wretched and lost, am yet his sou; I will therefore, "say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee,.and am no more worthy to be called thy son." That happiness is too great for me to expect or desire; I have by my behaviour, forfeited all the right I once had in so endearing, so valuable a title; "Make me as one of thy hired servants." 1 desire nothing more, than that thou wouldst mercifully receive me as one of thy hired servants.

Having thus taken a firm resolution of throwing himselfat the feet ofhfa father, and imploring forgiveness for his past"'offences, he did not delay to put it hmnediately into

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